The basic idea for this was inspired by Stratego--a board game that we had around the house when I was a child. Two things I didn't particularly like about that game: (1) the setup was rather fiddly, and (2) the gameplay took a while to get interesting, nibbling at the opposing army with whatever you had in your front ranks. This game is based on the same one-on-one comparison mechanic, with a couple of tweaks to get things moving faster.
To score the most points by capturing a higher value of your opponent's tiles (measured in pips).
Each player takes one cogwheel ("Crown") for his king, and three tiles of every other symbol, for 16 total. Arrange them in two armies of four ranks of four, aligned opposite one another. This can be done either randomly or deliberately, by agreement. During gameplay, a player *always* has the option to peek at any of his or her own tiles before making a move.
Alternating turns, the active player player selects one tile in his army, and if it is face-down, flips it face-up.. That piece must either (a) flee, or (b) attack. After the chosen action is resolved, both armies Close Ranks.
To Flee, the active player simply removes the piece from play (it will not be scored), and proceeds to the "Close Ranks" step.
To Attack, the active player selects an opposing tile in the same column--provided it is within range—and his opponent will turn it face up. Different symbols have different ranges of attack, depending on the number of pips they have. For purposes of determining range, a piece always counts its own rank first, and then continues forward. An "Archer" (arrow, six pips) has a range of six and can attack a piece five ranks ahead of him (counting his own, a total of six ranks). As vacated spaces are filled (see "Close Ranks," below) pieces toward the rear may come within range of additional attackers.
The King (cogwheel) is governed by special rules, below. An Engineer (bricks) has an attack range of four; Calvary (circles), three; Infantry (hammers), two (i.e., he may attack the rank immediately before him). A Spy (droplet) cannot initiate an attack, but may exercise his special ability instead (below). A Spy may otherwise serve as a reinforcement, and may defeat an attacking Archer, as below.
Rules of Engagement:
1. If the Defending tile has a higher pip count, the Defender conquers immediately.
2. If the Defending tile has an equal or lower pip count, the Defender may flip any one orthogonally adjacent tile to serve as a reinforcement. The defending tile combines its pip total with the reinforcement for purposes of the battle. The attacker does not have the option of calling in a reinforcement.
3. The side with the higher pip total in the engagement (including a reinforcement, if any) is the victor. Victorious tiles, including reinforcements, are removed entirely from play. Conquered tiles are "captured" and go to the victor's tally for purposes of winning the game.
4. In the event of an unresolved tie, all engaged tiles from both armies are removed from play.
The Spy has a range of "1" (limited to his own rank), and cannot initiate an attack. A Spy does, however, have a special ability, and may be turned face-up by an attacker to force his opponent to Reveal any tile of the attacker’s choosing. The "activated" Spy (who has disappeared behind enemy lines) is removed from play just as a victorious piece. The opponent’s Revealed tile is simply flipped face-up and remains face-up and in play until otherwise removed. A Spy that has already been flipped up because an opposing Spy “outed” him cannot activate the Reveal ability—his “cover is blown”. However, any Spy (face-up or face-down) may reinforce a neighboring tile as normal. The Spy also has a specially passive ability: if an Archer initiates an attack against a Spy, the Spy conquers immediately. Note that the Spy's ability to defeat an archer single-handedly is activated only when the Spy is the initial defender, not when he is called in as a reinforcement. A Spy may flee, and must do so if his tile is selected and there is no other legal move.
The King cannot initiate an attack and cannot flee, but when defending (and for purposes of the victory tally), he has a value of five. The King cannot reinforce another tile, or call for reinforcements. This means that only an Archer can defeat a King, so Archers must be used and positioned carefully. After defending successfully, a King remains in play. Once revealed, the King stays face-up.
Strategy: Because winning the game depends on the value of pieces captured, and not the number of engagements won, margin of victory is important. Calling in an Archer as a reinforcement to break a tie would likely be a waste. Calling in a neighboring Spy, however, might allow for a more efficient capture.
Often, sacrifices will make sense, if only to prevent the opponent from gaining too great an advantage. Forcing a tie will not net the defender any points, but it may be worth losing a reinforcement to prevent a gain to the opponent. At other times, it may be wise to lose the initial defender and call in no reinforcement at all.
After each turn (whether the active player chose to attack, or to flee), both armies must close ranks. A “gap” in the formation is any vacant space that either (a) has a piece behind it, or (b) prevents condition #3, below, from being true. Any gap must be filled by moving one tile one square at a time, according to these rules. Moving a tile will often create a new gap, which must be filled the same way.
1. If there is a piece is behind the gap, it must slide forward to fill the gap.
2. If there is no piece behind the gap, a piece must be moved sideways to fill the gap. If a piece is available on both sides of the gap, choose the piece from the longest of the two adjacent columns, or if they are of equal length, choose the piece that would be sliding closer toward the middle.
3. "Closing Ranks" is complete when (a) no column is longer than any other by more than one tile, and (b) no outer column (1 or 4) is longer than either middle column (2 and 3).
The game ends when one army has either: (a) been entirely removed from the field (by flight or defeat), or (b) has no remaining legal moves (e.g., has only the King remaining, who cannot attack or flee). Any remaining tiles in a player’s army go toward that player's victory tally. Tiles that were removed from play as a result of a victory, a tie, or because they fled the field, do not count toward the victory tally. If only one player has captured the opposing King, that player wins automatically *unless* his opponent can pay the 'King’s Ransom,” and surrender five points’ worth of the tiles in his victory tally to purchase the King’s freedom. The surrendered tiles are paid into the tally of the player holding the King (who can refuse to 'make change” if payment is tendered in a denomination greater than five). The released King is sent back to his castle and is not scored.
If neither or both players are in possession of the opposing King (either because both survived, both were captured, or one was Ransomed), the player with the higher pip total in his captured tally wins the game, as above. In the event of a tie, the win goes to the player who collected a King’s Ransom, or if neither did, the game simply ends in a tie.